Vasilis Xatzipanagis was born in 1954 in Tashkent, now in Uzbekistan but then part of the Soviet Union. His parents were Greek political activists living in exile following the 1967 military coup in Greece. Vasilis was a talented footballer and began his professional career, aged 17, with FK Pakhtakor Tashkent. He was naturalised to become a Soviet citizen. A creative midfielder who scored plenty of goals, Vasilis played a key role in Pakhtakor’s promotion to the Soviet top league. Vasilis was soon selected for the USSR Under-19s. In 1976 he played four matches for the Soviet Union national team.
The Greek Maradonna
In December 1975 Vasilis Xaztipanagis returned to Greece, to join Iraklis Thessaloniki. The end of the military reign in 1974 had made it possible for political exiles to return home. From the beginning, Vasilis was a local hero in Thessaloniki. He stayed with Iraklis for fifteen years, even though clubs in England, Italy and Germany wanted to contract him. Skilful, left-footed and a goalscorer, he was described as “the Greek Maradona”.
Vasilis was still only 22 when he first played for Greece, against Poland in Athens in 1976. Only after the game he was informed that he could not play his national team, because he had played for the Soviet Union. He never played for Greece again until a symbolic few minutes, aged 45, in a friendly against Ghana in 1999. When the Hellenic Football Federation named him Greece’s Golden Player in 2003, Vasilis was pleased. But he was also regretful about the career he might have had if he had played in a more glamorous league, or if he had been allowed to be a star in international football.
Vasilis Xatzipanagis was a richly talented player; idolised by fans as “the Greek Maradona”. But his life was full of might-have-beens. He never played for a ‘glamour team’ in the big European leagues, and he only once played for Greece. Educators could look at the life story of Vasilis Xatzipanagis and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What can be learned about football, politics, migration and identity from the story of Vasilis Xatzipanagis?
Vasilis Xatzipanagis (Drawing: Nikos Dim. Nikolaidis).
LIFE STORIES Latest
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
A dynamic activity with a mini football match to show students the relationship between foreign policy and football.
Football in India arose from the presence of British troops, but the game that could unite, was later eclipsed by cricket. A local story from India.
What if you could teach history through the lens of your local club? This is a ready-to-use lesson plan for history and citizenship educators to help address local social, political and economic history of the early 20th century as well everyday life in that period.
On this day, 11th October, in 2005, football star George Weah ran for the office of president of Liberia.
Over 100 life stories have been collected. Together they present a story of the people of Europe in the last 150 years. Time to connect the dots.
As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.